Subway Strategically Increasing Pace of Canadian Location Expansion [Interview]

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Subway Canada is focusing on strategically opening new restaurants in the coming year, while also renovating existing locations, and creating innovations to enhance consumer experience. 

“At the beginning of the year, the pipeline is noted with many strategic locations, and we are always evaluating potential new locations to ensure smart growth; at this stage, we see a lot of opportunities on the table. With many different venues and new spaces, there is a lot of opportunity for smart and strategic growth in Canada as we continue to prioritize providing a consistent, high-quality guest experience,” says Ismail Azmy, the Director of Business Development at Subway Canada. 

“Canada was the first geographical area in North America to open a Subway so far this year,” says Dean Harrison, the Director of Public Relations, Communications, and Sponsorships at Subway Canada, and there will be lots more to come. Right before the holiday season, Subway Canada opened a new location in North Bay as it is looking for locations where Subway is not currently in and where communities are underserved. Currently Subway Canada is the second largest Subway system in the world after the United States with almost 3,000 restaurants. 

“We are looking at communities that are maybe not as well served by other Quick Service Restaurant groups so we can really invest properly in our franchise community as well as our guests to make sure their experience is top notch. That is what we are trying to do in 2023 – is to make sure our products and hospitality is what Canadians are asking for. So making things more convenient and accessible to consumers is everything that we are working towards,” says Harrison. 

Bringing More Subs to your Gate  

Subway Canada at Montreal Airport (Image: Excellent Sign Group)

Subway Canada has announced that it will be opening a Subway food truck inside the Montreal Airport at the end of January as a new way of connecting with consumers. 

Ismail Azmy

“As a brand, we are one of the most flexible brands when it comes to the ability to fit into different formats and venues more than any other brand, and we are always open to exciting ideas that will better serve our guests. It is an extension for an existing location as we have been there for many years, we are just growing and trying to serve our consumers better and in more points at the airport,” says Azmy. 

Harrison says the food truck is one way to show consumers that the brand is changing. 

“We are very excited about it. From a visual perspective, it makes such noise because it really looks unique – it is a food truck in an airport. I think it goes to show how we are changing as a brand, how we are having fun, and how we are connecting with more consumers,” says Harrison. 

Along with the new Subway food truck, Subway Canada will be adding more locations in airports as Subway is already in many of airports around the world. Azmy said they have placed a goal of adding new locations and will be looking at all the airports that they are not currently in – such as the Edmonton airport where discussions are taking place to open a location. 

Dean Harrison

Subway will also be adding a fourth location in the Toronto Pearson Airport in Terminal One, the international terminal, opening at the end of June or beginning of July. Subway currently is not in Terminal One so Azmy said with this new location, Subway will be able to serve more consumers who are traveling internationally. 

Along with adding locations across the country, Subway will be doing a mass renovation as it is planning to remodel hundreds of locations in Canada which will help the franchise continue to grow and will offer a “refresh” experience. The remodel will be a Fresh Forward and Subway Canada will have an announcement soon about the project. 

Drive-Through Service Throughout Canada 

Image: Subway Canada

“It is very exciting seeing what is happening in the back of the house here as there are lots of new innovations on the way and we are looking at many different options, such as new menu innovations. There are lots of exciting things that are coming, but we will unveil the news about those at the right time – but it is going to be a very exciting year,” says Azmy. 

Harrison said last year Subway spent a lot of time on optimizing its website so the guest experience is easy whether they are using Subway’s digital platform or in a restaurant. One innovation Subway will be adding is a drive-through. 

Image: Subway.com

“It is very exciting for us and for people in Ontario. Almost a third of our Atlantic Canada restaurants offer drive-through service, which is amazing and a big learning for us. We also have some drive-through services across Alberta as well and in the West. We’re exploring how we can expand drive-thrus around the country in locations where it makes sense,” says Azmy.

Connecting With Consumers and Franchise

Image: Subway Canada

Azmy and Harrison said Subway is making a push to be more involved with its franchise community as often as possible to provide updates, to be there to answer their questions, having listening sessions, and to understand what their concerns are so when Subway expands more, they know what is working and what is not. 

One thing that is working to connect more with consumers is Subway’s program Never Miss Lunch and this year, Subway Canada has a donation target of 185,000 fresh food packs across the country to 200 communities – helping those in need and educating consumers across Canada. 

“Our end goal is to find relevance and love – and that pushes our marketing efforts. Last year, we worked so hard on our basketball partnership with the NBA Canada and Raptors. Basketball in Canada is the number one sport, it is fun, and it is exciting. We are really trying to make sure that everything we do is impactful and we are all going towards that one goal of making sure that our franchise is happy, our guests are happy, and that we are moving the brand forward in Canada,” says Harrison. 

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Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala, based in Toronto, is a new Journalist to Retail Insider. She has experience writing for local newspapers and also internationally for Helsinki Times while she lived in Finland. Shelby holds a Bachelor of Journalism Honours degree from the University of King’s College and a Social Work degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax.

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